Definition of Marriage
Nikah is an Arabic term used for marriage which means "contract". ("Aqd in Arabic). The Quran specifically refers to marriage as "Mithaqun Ghalithun," which means "a solid agreement".
"and they have taken a strong pledge (Mithaqun Ghalithun) from you?" (Quran 4:21)
The significance of this agreement becomes obvious when one finds the same term i.e., Mithaqun Ghalithun, being used for the promise made between Allah and the Prophet before granting them the responsibility of the Prophethood. (Quran 33:7)
The Quran also uses the Arabic word "Hisn", suggesting "fortress" for marriage. Marriage is considered the fortress of chastity.
The Purpose of Marriage
A meaningful institution, marriage has two main purposes:
To ensure the conservation of the human species and continuation of the human race,
"O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord, who created you from a single soul and it created its mate and from them has spread abroad a multitude of men and women" (Quran: 4:1)
To provide a spiritual and legal foundation of the family
"And of His signs is this: He created for you mates from yourself that you might find rest in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, therein indeed are portents for folk who reflect". (Quran 30:21)
Through Marriage, the matrimonial relationship between a man and a woman becomes lawful. It provides a valid outlet for rebirth as well as reproduction. Islam regards sex as spiritual, natural and good, but confines it only to partners bound by the law of marriage. This is to ensure the responsibility for its consequences.
"Your women are a tilth for you so go to your tilth as you will, and send (good deeds) before you for your souls, and fear Allah, and know that you will (one day) meet him. Give glad tidings to believers, (O Muhammad)." (Quran 2:223)
Marriage provides the base for spiritual, physical, emotional and psychological companionship. This companionship produces and sustains love, kindness, compassion, solace, confidence, and succor (sakinah). It also lays a spiritual and legal base for raising a family. The children born from the matrimonial union become legitimate and establish mutual rights of inheritance.
Marriage: A Religious Requirement
As per Islam, Marriage is a religious requirement.
"Marry those among you who are single and (marry) your slaves, male and female, that are righteous" (Quran 24:32)
Prophet Muhammad (S) declared: "When the servant of Allah marries, he has fulfilled half the (responsibilities laid on him by the) faith; so let him be God-conscious while respecting the other half". (Mishkat)
Marriage has also been applauded as the way of the prophets.
"We indeed sent messengers before you (O Muhammad), and We assigned them wives and children" (Quran 13:38)
Marriage is specifically considered a tradition (sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (S) when he stated:
"Marriage is my Sunnah, whoever disregards my (sunnah) path is not from among us". (ibn Majah)
Islam discourages celibacy and inspires marriage, as Prophet Muhammad (S) recommended:
"Whoever can marry, should marry". (Bukhari)
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